March 17, 2019 / 3:05 AM / 5 months ago

Freshmen carry No. 5 Duke past No. 12 Florida State

EditorsNote: Edit 1: Removed extra word in fifth graf.

Mar 16, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; The Duke Blue Devils celebrate winning in the ACC conference tournament at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Freshman Zion Williamson scored 21 points as fifth-ranked Duke found the necessary energy to finish off another run through the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, winning 73-63 against No. 12 Florida State on Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Duke collected its ACC-record 21st tournament championship, winning the title for the second time in three years. It was the fifth time the Blue Devils won the championship in Charlotte.

With Williamson returning following a three-week layoff because of a sprained knee suffered Feb. 20, the Blue Devils clicked at times in winning three games in three days. They’re likely in line for a No. 1 regional seed when those are revealed Sunday.

Freshmen accounted for all but six of Duke’s points, with Tre Jones pouring in 18, RJ Barrett finishing with 17 and Cam Reddish adding 11.

Mfiondu Kabengele scored 14 points and Terance Mann added 12 to pace Florida State (27-7), which was aiming for its first tournament crown since 2012. The Seminoles had lost just once since a 1-4 start in league play.

Third-seeded Duke (29-5) had the challenge of regenerating the energy level after an emotional one-point semifinal victory against North Carolina in Friday night’s late semifinal. Fourth-seeded Florida State was trying to knock off two top-five teams in consecutive days after dismissing second-ranked Virginia.

Duke used a 10-0 run early in the second half for a 46-39 lead. A later 8-0 spurt stretched the margin to 58-44.

But Florida State rallied to within 63-58 with less than five minutes to play before the Blue Devils regained control.

This outcome was different from a Jan. 12 meeting in Tallahassee, Fla. Williamson missed the second half after he was poked in the eye, with Reddish hitting a winning 3-point basket in the final second for an 80-78 result.

This one wasn’t as dramatic, though the score was tied 36-36 at halftime and the Seminoles took a brief lead after intermission.

Earlier, Florida State pushed its lead to 27-19 before a Duke time-out and a rapid response from the Blue Devils. That delighted a partisan Duke crowd as the Blue Devils were playing in their home state.

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